From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Tim Duncan was selected to his 14th All-Star game, Spurs teammate Tony Parker is joining him, and the Chicago Bulls also had two reserves chosen Thursday for next month's game in Houston.Joakim Noah and Luol Deng were picked from the Bulls, who have stayed in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race despite the season-long absence of point guard Derrick Rose. Noah is one of five first-time All-Stars for the East, along with New York's Tyson Chandler, Indiana's Paul George, Cleveland's Kyrie Irving, and Philadelphia's Jrue Holiday.Miami's Chris Bosh, picked for his eighth All-Star team, rounded out the East squad.West forwards David Lee (Golden State), LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland) and Zach Randolph (Memphis) all were picked for the second time. Houston's James Harden was chosen for the first time and joins former Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook, headed to his third straight All-Star game.Duncan wasn't chosen last year for the first time in his career but has bounced back with a terrific season at age 36, averaging 17.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots, his best statistics since 2009-10.The co-MVP of the 2000 All-Star game joined a group that includes Michael Jordan for fifth-most selections. Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, both voted to start, and Shaquille O'Neal all were picked 15 times. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the career leader as a 19-time All-Star.The reserves were voted by the head coaches from each conference, who had to select two guards, three frontcourt players and two players regardless of position. They were not allowed to vote for players from their own teams.With centers Chandler and Noah, East coaches passed on Brooklyn's Brook Lopez, the leading scorer for a resurgent team that is right behind the Knicks for the Atlantic Division lead. Perennial All-Stars Deron Williams and Joe Johnson of the Nets also missed out, as did Boston's Paul Pierce.Lee gave the Warriors their first All-Star since Latrell Sprewell in 1997, but coach Mark Jackson and his team hoped for more. However, Stephen Curry wasn't selected despite averaging 20.9 points. He's the league's eighth-leading scorer and the highest one who won't be in Houston for the Feb. 17 showcase.Lee called his selection "bittersweet" because Curry -- the first person to send him a congratulatory text -- wasn't picked."In our practice facility, there's that All-Star chart and it stops at '97 and there hasn't been any since. So the whole team was really excited with the improved record this year and to get one or both of our guys on there," Lee said. "I'm really excited to be the one that goes and represents our team. I wish Steph could be a part of it and maybe he'll still be able to. I'm just very, very excited. It's been a long time for the Bay Area fans. Not only to have an All-Star, but to be winning games."Voted as East starters by fan voting along with Garnett were Miami's LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, New York's Carmelo Anthony and Boston's Rajon Rondo.The West starting five is Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard of the Lakers, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, and Clippers teammates Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.The Clippers were hoping for a third All-Star, but sixth-man Jamal Crawford wasn't picked.Commissioner David Stern would choose the replacement if any players are injured.Randolph leads the NBA with 27 double-doubles and becomes the first Grizzlies player with multiple selections."It is truly an honor to be named by the NBA's coaches to the 2013 Western Conference All-Star team," he said in a statement. "I am grateful for this opportunity and look forward to playing with the best players in the world."The leaders of the teams with the best winning percentage in their conference through games of Feb. 3 will be the coaches. Miami's Erik Spoelstra has the inside track on the East spot, while San Antonio's Gregg Popovich and the Clippers' Vinny Del Negro are battling for the West honor since Scott Brooks, whose Thunder have the league's best record, is ineligible after coaching last year.Irving, the reigning Rookie of the Year, and Holiday were rewarded for outstanding individual seasons even though their teams are well below .500. Irving is the Cavaliers' first All-Star since James, the only other East player averaging at least 20 points and five assists."It's one of the best days of my life," Irving said Thursday night, shortly after also being honored as Cleveland's professional athlete of the year award at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards. "It's a big deal for me and it's a big deal for the city of Cleveland to be picked as an All-Star for the first time. I'm turning 21 on March 23 and to be with those guys, to see those names on TV, that was truly a blessing."The 22-year-old Holiday, the youngest All-Star in franchise history, is averaging 19.0 points and 9.0 assists but feared the 76ers' 17-25 mark would work against him."I thought so. I definitely thought so. I think anybody else probably would, too," he said while watching a Philadelphia Flyers game. "We're not getting on a winning streak or anything like that. I just tried to stay positive and not talk about it."
College teammates Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder made plans to go to dinner after Thursday’s game in Chicago but for a few short moments they weren’t just competitors but unexpected combatants, getting tangled up in the second quarter.
There looked to be some harsh words exchanged after Butler took a charge on an unsuspecting Crowder near three-quarter court, with Crowder putting the basketball in Butler’s chest while Butler was still on the floor, causing players on both teams to convene for some tense moments.
Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas got involved and then before Butler could blink, Bulls guard Rajon Rondo joined the proceedings, as pushing and shoving ensued before technical fouls were assessed to both teams after an officials’ review.
If one wondered whether these Bulls—a team that touts itself as young with so many players having three years or less professional experience—could play with some bark and bite, perhaps the season opener provided a bit of a positive preview for the next 81 games.
Nearby, an unbothered Dwyane Wade took a practice 3-point shot, much to the delight of the United Center crowd, as observers witnessed the first sign of tangible proof the Bulls have intentions on regaining a bit of an edge on the floor.
Wade joked and took it as a sign of respect between the two teams.
“It looked like it, right? Yeah. It was a little something out there,” said Wade when asked if there was some chippy play. “Every time we play them it’s gonna be like that. Two teams finding their way in the Eastern Conference. We know we gotta see each other a lot. They never give up. They can be down 30 with 15 seconds left and they’re still gonna fight.”
The Bulls have externally preached toughness from the start of camp. Although Wade didn’t participate in that meeting of the minds, he isn’t exactly running away from such matters.
And Rajon Rondo is competitively ornery enough to have his voice hard no matter the setting.
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“It’s been a big theme of practice,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We want to play with physicality and toughness. I think it was evident on the glass tonight.”
Yes, the Bulls outrebounded the Celtics by 19, but that could’ve been a by-product of the Bulls’ crashing the offensive glass on a porous shooting night. And yes, the slightly tense moment between Butler and Crowder probably won’t be an expected occurrence.
But when’s the last time one had multiple examples to dissect to discern this team’s level of toughness—or lack thereof.
“That’s something to show that the guys are out there fighting for each other,” Hoiberg said. “That they were playing with an edge. It happens with this game. You have to be competitive.”
Competition boiled over slightly, but considering the NBA isn’t exactly UFC, one doesn’t have to do much to display a little physical resolve.
“The fact that nothing escalated was good,” Hoiberg said. “The fact that those guys are out there and playing for each other and have each other’s back, that’s a huge thing right now.”
Too many times last season, it seemed the Bulls would submit in situations like those. Not that they were particularly soft, but it didn’t appear they had the collective will to fight for one another if an altercation arose.
Half the time, they looked like they could barely stand to be in the room with each other.
“It’s people’s will to win. Not saying a bad thing about anybody from last year,” Butler said. “To tell you the truth, I study the game and put in a lot of work but Rondo studies the game a lot. Every time I’m in the gym, he’s in the gym. That lets me know, these (dudes) are going to war with you. Every day. When I hit that deck, Rondo was right there. I wanna play with guys that’s gonna play hard, that’s gonna fight.”
And it didn’t take long for Butler to realize he has at least a couple teammates willing to jump in the foxhole with him.